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A gallery in Nehru Science Centre has come to life. Here, dinosaurs look for food, single cell organisms wiggle around, large land scorpions attack beetles and wooly mammoths shake their head
It was in 2002 when Nehru Science Centre first inaugurated its Prehistoric Animals gallery. It was like any other gallery, and models of various prehistoric animals from large land scorpions to dinosaur species like Apatosauruses were placed like regular gallery subjects, rather unimaginatively. In September 2010, the gallery shut down.
By the time the gallery reopened on May 25, the space was growing with prehistoric trees and the animals had come to life. Or so it seemed. The same large Apatosaurus now moves its long neck looking for grass to munch on, and the scorpion waits patiently for a beetle. Once a beetle appears within striking range, in a quick move, the scorpion clasps it with its pincers. The trilobyte, or what is considered to be the first form of singular cell life, wiggles slowly in water, the saber-toothed cat snarls, the dinosaurs rummage for food, and more.
In the nine months that the gallery was shut, it underwent renovation. The models were taken apart and set in motion, and the gallery space itself (which by the way is 350 square feet) was done up. Now, sensors are placed near the models so that whenever a visitor passes by, the figures move, as if alive.
Unlike the erstwhile gallery, the current one is dimly lit and covered with thick foliage. The level of detailing is also noteworthy. There are elaborate paintings of forests and snow mountains on the walls, depending on which Age they are representing; and the waterfalls glisten, as though actual water is passing by and reflecting the sun's rays.
Information kiosks and small screens stand at various corners that tell you of the evolution of life on earth.
Umesh Kumar, curator of the museum says, "The earlier gallery was not interactive. We hope the new one enlivens interest in prehistoric animals among children and adults." And there is already evidence that the idea might have worked. On May 29, the first Sunday after the launch, Nehru Science Centre saw a total of 5,000 footfalls. "Earlier, we would get at most 4,000 people in one day."
However, among the 35 animal models in the new gallery, one piece from the previous one is missing. It is that of the Oviraptor, or the egg-stealing dinosaur. Instead of being placed inside, the piece is stationed at the entrance of the Centre. Kumar explains, "When the gallery was undergoing renovation, we placed this model outside. It proved to be very popular, so we let it be there."
Sadly, as a result, it missed out on motion, unlike its cousins inside.
At: Prehistoric Animals, Nehru Science Centre, Dr E Moses Road, Worli